UK Digital Identity: A New Start or Another False Dawn?

UK Digital Identity: A New Start or Another False Dawn?

John Erik Setsaas

VP of Identity and Innovation at Signicat

Views 336

UK Digital Identity: A New Start or Another False Dawn?

07.09.2020 04:00 pm

Recently, The Digital Identity Strategy Board announced “next steps” to introduce a UK national digital identity scheme. The question is: will the government learn from past mistakes?

The strategy is based on six principles of privacy, transparency, inclusivity, interoperability, proportionality and good governance. These are strong foundations but only in theory. In reality, these principles and success in practice are totally reliant upon how the public sector works with partners in the private sector.

GOV.UK Verify, the UK’s most recent foray into digital identity, launched in private beta in 2014, with the service finally going live to the public in May 2016 – several years later than originally planned. The service fell short of target users which prompted the service to be handed over to the private sector.

The failure and handover of GOV.UK Verify is an important lesson that digital identity infrastructure is dependent on private companies to be successful. Governments that go it alone invariably fail.

The most successful digital identity schemes such as BankID in Sweden rely on private partnerships, often with banks. BankID has eight million users equating to 78% of the population and is used for everything from submitting tax returns to proving your age to use sun beds. Banks are often partners of choice as they already hold identity credentials for their customers and are highly regulated entities.

Until we know more about who and how the government is partnering with the private sector, we won’t know if the strategy is sound or simply another false start for digital identity in the UK.


* The government announcement comes after it was revealed 2.6 million people made a claim for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme online since its launch on 13 May 2020, with 1.4 million having no prior digital identity credentials and needing to pass through HMRC’s identity verification service.

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